Bipolar disorder has robbed me of so much. While the mood disorder is characterized by extreme ups and downs or highs and lows, there are various emotions intertwined within these highs and lows.
Every time I try to explain to someone what it’s like to live with this disorder, I feel myself getting choked up. How do I explain the extreme mood swings or the numerous suicide attempts? How do I explain how crazy I feel when my moods fluctuate? How do I talk about my failed relationships and my constant job changes due to having bipolar disorder? How do I tell them about the depression so severe that there are times I can’t even get out of bed? Or about how mania can be extremely dangerous. This disorder is highly complex and while there is so much to know, here are a few things I want others to be aware of when it comes to bipolar disorder.
12 Things I Want Others to Know About Bipolar Disorder
1. It’s More Than Your Everyday Ups and Downs
I can recall more than one occasion when I’ve tried explaining bipolar disorder to someone and I’ve been met with, “Well, we all have ups and downs.” While this is true, the episodes individuals with bipolar disorder experience are more severe than everyday highs and lows.
Also, I often see people on social media jokingly saying they’re bipolar because they were sad and now they’re happy. That’s not what bipolar disorder is and saying things like this is highly offensive to those of us actually struggling with this disorder.
2. There Is No Cure for Bipolar Disorder but There Is Treatment
Effective treatment for me consists of medication and therapy. The medications I take are not “happy pills”. For my meds to work properly I have to take them every day. The medication works by changing the chemicals in my brain and stabilizing my moods. This allows me to function and do everyday things like working and attending school.
3. Just Because I Have A Relapse Does Not Mean I’ve Stopped Taking My Medicine
Nothing annoys me more than being asked if I’ve been taking my medication. Just because I experience an episode, doesn’t mean I’m not sticking with my treatment plan. My current medication regimen is effective but that doesn’t mean I will never have an episode again.
I’m allowed to have a bad day without it being caused by an episode. I can have an “off” day just like anyone else. A bad day does not mean I’m experiencing an episode.
4. When I’m Experiencing An Episode, I Tend to Push Others Away
When I’m manic, I sometimes experience grandiosity. I feel superior to others and feel as though I don’t need anyone. This leads to me pushing others away. I feel invincible when mania is present. Some other symptoms I experience when I’m manic include speaking rapidly and switching from topic to topic. Most times, my thoughts are moving so fast that I can’t keep up. I usually have these grand ideas and I start having deep and intense thoughts. I always have an increase in energy. I’m extremely irritable and get frustrated easily. In the past, I’ve engaged in risky sex because mania can cause hypersexuality. I make impulsive decisions and end up regretting them once the mania passes. I’m usually more creative when manic and find myself biting off more than I can chew. When I’m manic, I can go for a long period of time with little to no sleep.
I used to think mania was fun as I’m sure others with bipolar disorder have also felt at some point. I now realize the severity of a manic episode.
5. Sometimes I Experience Hallucinations and Delusions
There are times during very severe episodes that I’ll hallucinate. I may have auditory or visual hallucinations. I also have delusions and will believe things are happening that aren’t true. For example, once during a manic episode, I believed I was pregnant and tried to cut the baby out of my stomach. During this same episode I was extremely paranoid and convinced that people were being sent to kill me.
6. Depressive Episodes Are Severe
Most times during a depressive episode, I have trouble doing basic things such as taking a shower and brushing my teeth. I feel the need to isolate myself, again, pushing others away. When the depression sucks me in, I feel stuck. When the depression is severe, I experience suicidal thoughts and urges to self-harm. During depression, I also get excruciating headaches.
7. It’s Not An Excuse but It Is An Explanation
While having bipolar disorder is not an excuse it is an explanation. Certain behaviors I exhibit are a direct result of my disorder.
8. I Can’t and Will Never Be Able to Just Snap Out of An Episode
When I’m experiencing an episode it’s not easy to “think positive thoughts” or snap out of it. This disorder takes a toll on every aspect of my life. When I’m in the middle of an episode, I can’t just turn it off.
9. This Illness Is A Part of Me but Not All of Me
It does not define me. I am not bipolar, I have bipolar. It’s a major part of my life but it isn’t all there is to me.
10. I’m Not Crazy
The stigma associated with mental illness leads some people to believe that those struggling with one are crazy. I’ve held conversations with others who knew of my diagnosis and told me they thought it meant I was crazy and that me having bipolar disorder scares them.
Oftentimes, the portrayal of mental illness in the media isn’t accurate. Those of us living with bipolar disorder already deal with so much negativity, please don’t add to it.
11. Symptoms Vary
Every person who has bipolar disorder doesn’t act or experience the same thing. My episodes can look different from someone else’s that you know. I used to be involved with a woman who knew about my diagnosis and she also knew someone else who has bipolar disorder. I found out she told this person that I acted nothing like them basically implying she thought everyone with bipolar disorder would act the same.
One of the best ways to support me is by listening and being compassionate. If you don’t live with this disorder you’ll never truly understand but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn the ins and outs of bipolar disorder and how to help.
Living With Bipolar Disorder
Living with bipolar disorder has been a struggle. While the roller coaster ride does slow down and even stop at times, I still have to take care so that I do not expose myself to potential triggers. Aside from this, one other thing that’s helped me manage is keeping track of my moods and daily habits. I used to think that every time I’d hear a doctor or anyone say that it’s possible to live with this disorder, they were feeding me lies. I have my setbacks, but I’ve realized they were right. It takes time to find what works for you because bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions impact everyone differently. There is help and it may not get easier, but I’ve witnessed it getting better.
Happy World Bipolar Day!
Photo by Joshua Mcknight: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-multi-colored-long-sleeve-shirt-dancing-under-blue-sky-6665390/